Using Data Science to Track Marine Heatwaves

The University of Washington’s School of Oceanography Professor LuAnne Thompson and recent PhD graduate Hillary Scannell are leading a team that uses data science to track and predict marine heatwaves (MHW). These extreme hot-water events have had dramatic ecological impacts and have led to widespread toxic algal blooms, habitat degradation, and loss in commercially valuable fisheries.

Ocetrac characterizes the complex spatial connectivity and temporal behavior of marine heatwaves (MHWs) as they evolve, and provides a new public catalog of observed marine heatwave metrics and trajectories.

The ocean absorbs and stores the majority of excess heat in our climate; as the overall ocean temperatures have doubled over the past four decades, these heatwaves have grown more frequent and severe. Scannell and Thompson developed an end-to-end Python package called Ocetrac that tracks dangerous MHWs globally. The package was developed in collaboration with scientists of the National Center for Atmosphere Research (NCAR), and with the use of their supercomputer Cheyenne and compute cluster Casper.

Read my full article on the UW eScience Institute website here.

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